Central America Adventure

Central America Adventure

PSBRC
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Description

Combining classic Central American destinations Guatemala and Costa Rica with Belize and El Salvador, this journey delves deeper into the continent than many go. Begin on the beautiful beaches of Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and finish down in San Jose. Discover butterfly-filled cloud forest, volcano-ringed waters, hidden swimming holes, scenic coffee plantations and tiny villages bursting with Latin American colour and verve. Belize is Peregrine’s latest addition to its destinations in the region, and adventures into its dense jungle reveal an incredible spread of wildlife and a lost Maya underworld shrouded in mystery.

DISCONTINUED for 2019. This is mainly due to lack of traveller interest. There will be new standalone trips in Guatemala and Costa Rica; ‘Guatemala Highlights’ (PSGH) and ‘Costa Rica Highlights’ (PSCH). These trips can both be booked independently or together; however they will not be offered as a packaged combination trip. Please check back in a few months for more details on these itineraries.

Trip Name
Central America Adventure
Last Updated
2018-12-27
Days
29
Capacity
12
Highlights
  • The history of the fascinating local culture of Lake Atitlan can be traced in the movements of the brush that paints the mystical Maya nahual. Pick up a brush in a local artist’s studio and with it discover your life energy, soul companions, and your destiny
  • Your 2-night Feature stay at Hotel Atitlan in Panajachel has lake-facing balconies with a rustic Spanish colonial style as well as a manicured botanical garden and volcano views
  • The brightly painted houses of Flores are a reflection of the radiant colours that stretch across the town at sunset. Enjoy memorable lakeside drinks while the sun sinks below the horizon
  • Journey into the jungles of Guatemala and uncover the magnificent remains of the lost Maya civilisation in Tikal
  • The stunning national parks of Costa Rica are endowed with some of the greatest diversity of flora and fauna in the world
  • Journey to Tortuguero National Park and learn about local turtle conservation projects
  • Your 2-night Feature stay at Mawamba Lodge in Tortuguero is nestled in the evergreen forest - accessible only by boat or air - this spacious, rustic lodge sits between the ocean and the canals
  • Call in at a small family-owned coffee farm, Cafe San Luis, and be taken through the coffee making process, from crop to cup.
  • Explore Manuel Antonio National Park in the company of one who knows it best – a local guide who's family first settled in it.

Itinerary

Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Essential Trip Information a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff. We are here to help you! Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or just let your leader know you are interested and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

Day 1 - Playa del Carmen
Arrive in Cancun and transfer to your hotel in Playa del Carmen. The day is free until a welcome meeting at around 6 pm. Check with the hotel reception for details. With azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is a delightful resort city close to Cancun. If you arrive early, spend your time snorkelling crystal clear waters, diving in underground caverns or strolling along white sands. In the evening, kick back and watch the waves with a margarita. For adventures further afield take a ferry across the turquoise seas to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef diving.
Day 2 - Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary
Make the journey from Playa del Carmen across the border to Belize (approximately 4 hours). Settle into your accommodation – the small, family-run Crooked Tree Lodge. It is located approximately 2 hours' drive past the border. Nestled among coconut palms and bullet trees in the heart of Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary (and on the edge of Crooked Tree Lagoon), this lodge is ideally located for wildlife viewing. Spot squirrels, iguanas or perhaps even crocodiles.
Day 3 - San Ignacio
Wake early and embark on a birdwatching excursion, travelling by boat on the lagoon. Some 250 resident or migratory neotropical birds inhabit this reserve, among them the Jabiru stork (the largest flying bird in the Western Hemisphere). Afterwards, drive to the San Ignacio area (approximately 2.5 hours). Here the afternoon is yours to spend as you please. Relax and unwind at the excellent Pooks Hill Lodge, situated on 300 acres of lush Belizean forest in the foothills of the Maya Mountains.
Day 4 - San Ignacio
Enjoy a day of free time. Perhaps go birdwatching, swimming, hiking or walking. A highly recommended option is a day trip to the ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal) Cave. This begins with a hike (approximately 45 minutes) up the Roaring River Valley and through the rainforest of the Tapir Mountain Preserve. After reaching the cave entrance, you are taken on a tour of the ‘Xibalba,’ the fascinating Maya underworld. This includes a ‘Cathedral’ chamber which used to be a Maya ceremonial and burial ground.
Day 5 - Flores
Bid farewell to Belize and head to the Guatemalan border (approximately 1 hour). Once you have crossed into Guatemala, continue to Flores (approximately 2 hours). After settling in, visit Yaxha, an archaeological site situated on the shores of Yaxha Lagoon in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. Surrounded by dense jungle, Yaxha is home to more than 500 buildings, including the impressive Twin Pyramids. Perhaps climb temple 216 for beautiful views across the lagoons, forest and other temples. Afterwards, sit back at a picture-perfect spot by the lake and, over a glass of wine, farewell that same sun the Mayas worshiped hundreds of years ago.
Day 6 - Tikal / Flores
Embrace an early start (about 7 am) for a leader-led tour of Tikal. Home to some of the world's most magnificent Maya ruins, Tikal's five major temples rise above the jungle canopy while an array of smaller structures remain hidden in the undergrowth. Explore the highlights of the area, including Temple I, which is perhaps the iconic image of Guatemala. This area is a repository of Maya wisdom, containing insights into traditional medicine, astrology, agronomy and architecture. The jungles thrum with life, with toucans and macaws swooping between trees and monkeys crashing through the canopy. Those interested can climb to the top of the ruins for unsurpassed vistas over the forest. Return to Flores early in the afternoon (approximately 2 pm) and enjoy free time to stroll the cobblestone streets, shop for locally-made souvenirs or swim in Lake Peten Itza.
Day 7 - Flores / Guatemala city / Suchitoto
Take an early morning transfer to Flores Airport for an 8 am flight to Guatemala City (approximately 1 hour). From here, make the journey Suchitoto via the El Salvadorean border (approximately 6 hours). It's a long travel day, but the destination is well worth it. With its festive atmosphere, stately colonial-era architecture, shaded plazas and lack of traffic, Suchitoto is a dream to explore on foot. The town overlooks the Embalse Cerron Grande (also known as Lago Suchitlan) which is a haven for migrating birds – particularly falcons and hawks.
Day 8 - Suchitoto
Enjoy a guided city tour which involves a mix of walking a transport (approximately 3 hours). Learn some of the city's history along the way. During the civil war, Suchitoto became virtually a ghost town, the battles at nearby Guazapa compelling most of its inhabitants to flee for safety. Grim times that they were, this abandonment actually helped to preserve the city's colonial architecture that you'll be admiring today. You also make a visit to Los Tercios waterfalls and rock formation, attend a cigar rolling demonstration with the 98-year-old Nina Victoria, and enjoy lunch at a local pupusa's restaurant. Enjoy some free time in afternoon.
Day 9 - Suchitoto
In the morning, hike through the nearby Cinquera Rain Forest Park with a local guide (approximately 2 hours). The trail you hike is somewhat steep but takes you to a former guerilla camp. The park was created by the former FMLN guerillas and their families to protect the forest from loggers. When the hike is over, you can cool off by taking a dip in a nearby swimming hole. Meet with one of the original guerilla fighters to learn his story and ask questions about the civil war in El Salvador. Afterwards, enjoy some free time. You might like to spend the afternoon boating, kayaking or attending a local indigo dying workshop.
Day 10 - Antigua via Ruta de las Flores
Drive to the renowned 'Ruta de las Flores' (Flowers Route) (approximately 2.5 hours). This is one of the country's premier attractions, full of verdant coffee plantations, tiny towns bursting with colour, and of course the wildflowers from which the area takes its name. For lunch, stop in at what may well be El Salvador's best restaurant, El Jardin de Celeste. After a leisurely repast in this idyllic garden setting, head off to the border and cross back into Guatemala (approximately 4 hours). Arrive in Antigua in the early evening.
Day 11 - Antigua
As you'll come to appreciate, Guatemala’s volcanic soils and altitudinous valleys offer just the right conditions for coffee cultivation, and today you'll visit a coffee farm to see just how its's done. From a bean plant nursery to the plantation itself to a cupping lab where you will be offered a freshly brewed sample, this is a rare chance to sip coffee straight from the source.  How you spend the rest of your time in Antigua is up to you. Due to its historical relics, pleasant ambience and friendly locals, the town is a popular one among travellers. There are a number of interesting markets to peruse, plus no shortage of restaurants and cafes to check out – be sure to sample the country's other important bean: chocolate! If you’re feeling adventurous, perhaps finish off this journey to the tune of some salsa at one of the local dance spots.
Day 12 - Lake Atitlan
Encircled by emerald mountains and misty volcanoes, Lake Atitlan has often been ranked one of the world's most beautiful lakes. Here your accommodation boasts incredible views across Atitlan's reflective waters and surrounding peaks. Spend the day cruising around by boat and stopping in at local villages – San Juan La Laguna included – and visit local artist workshops. Meet local artists Antonio and Angelina Coche and learn from them about your Maya 'Nahual', a local equivalent of the zodiac that assigns animal spirits based on birth date. You might even want to try painting your own symbol. Along the way you will see that life in many of the villages around the lake has changed very little over the past few centuries. In some you'll see locals still getting around in traditional garb that incorporate designs passed down through generations, and the atmosphere is peaceful and unpretentious.
Day 13 - Lake Atitlan
Visit Santiago Atitlan, a peaceful town located on the southern shores of the lake between the volcanoes Toliman and San Pedro. This is the largest town on the lake; more importantly it's the home of the Maya god, Maximon. As a town with a strong indigenous identity, Santiago Atitlan hosts a Holy Week each year which sees Maximon's effigy moved from one house to another. While in Santiago Atitlan you’ll visit a local church to learn about the local customs and history of this traditional town, also stopping in at a local market to watch the day's business being carried out. Arrive back at your hotel at approximately 3 pm.
Day 14 - Antigua
Enjoy free time in the morning, then travel back to Antigua (approximately 3 hours). The afternoon is free to spend as you wish. Perhaps enjoy a final (optional) dinner with your fellow travellers.
Day 15 - San Jose
Today you will be transferred to Guatemala City Airport in time to catch your international flight to Costa Rica. The international flight between Guatemala City and San Jose is not included in the price of this trip and it must be purchased separately. Please contact us if you need assistance to make this arrangement. In the evening you will meet your tour leader and the other members of the group for a pre-tour briefing. This is normally held at 6pm but please check the notice board at reception to confirm the time and place. Please bring your passport, next of kin and travel insurance documents along with you. Following the briefing there is generally an optional group dinner at a nearby restaurant. Costa Rica’s capital sits in the centre of a lush, wide valley which has a comfortable subtropical climate. The streets of the town are laid out along a grid iron pattern, with avenidas running east to west and callés running north to south. Many of the most interesting buildings are in the region of Avenida Central – the Teatro Nacional is an elaborate confection of marble staircases, statues, frescoes and mirrors. Artisan booths are common here and you never know when there'll be a spontaneous art fair. If arriving earlier in the day, have a look at the Gold Museum, which has an amazing collection of indigenous gold art. If these cultural gems get you in the mood for a bit of shopping, head to the outdoor market in Plaza de la Cultura or the Central Market where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood.
Day 16 - Tortuguero
Leave San Jose and descend to the Caribbean lowlands (approximately 4 hours). The final section of our journey to the port at La Pavona is on an unsealed road. There you'll take a boat to Tortuguero National Park (approximately 1.5 hours). This area has long been associated with the catching of turtles (tortuguero means turtle-catcher). The original indigenous inhabitants used turtles as a sustainable resource, but the arrival of Europeans led to major exploitation. Tortuguero National Park is home to 13 of Costa Rica’s 16 endangered mammals. Among them are manatees, ocelots and jaguars, as well as over 300 bird species. First and foremost, however, it is the nesting ground of the green turtle, which comes ashore between July and October to lay its eggs on the sandy beaches. Lesser numbers of the critically endangered hawksbill turtle, plus loggerheads, and giant leatherback turtles also nest within the park at different times of year. This afternoon you'll meet Sibella and her son Cloied, descendant of the first Afro-Caribbean people who arrived in the area. Learn from them all about life in this corner of the world, from the secrets of Caribbean dishes to how life was before tourism came to this remote area. Your guide will particularly elaborate on the use of coconut and its many uses from paper to delicious candy. After the presentation, head to the Sea Turtle Conservancy Museum to learn about the sea turtle conservation efforts in Tortuguero.
Day 17 - Tortuguero
Today a local guide will take you through the park within the lodge to explain about the local flora and show you butterfly and frog gardens. In the afternoon embark on a 2-hour boat tour through the canals of Tortuguero National Park, keeping eyes peeled for aquatic birds, monkeys, caimans, iguanas and bats.
Day 18 - Sarapiqui
Set the alarm clock early because today you'll be visiting Sarapiqui, located in the heart of Costa Rica's banana growing region. To get there you'll transfer back to the port by boat (approximately 1.5 hours) and then continue to Sarapiqui by private minibus (approximately 3 hours). On the banks of the Puerto Viejo River and next to the Braulio Carrillo National Park, Sarapiqui is surrounded by virgin forests, banana and pineapple plantations. Sarapiqui is also known as one of the richest areas in Costa Rica for bird watching. The diversity of lowland bird life is impressive. A biological research station and several nearby forest lodges have made this undisturbed habitat accessible to scientists and travellers. Once you've arrived, enjoy a relaxing swim in the pool while listening to the sounds of the rainforest. The entire afternoon is free to enjoy. Perhaps opt to visit La Sevla Bioalogical Station, a field station of the Organization for Tropical Studies, today one of the most important sites in the world for research on tropical rain forest. Over 240 scientific papers are published yearly from research conducted at the site. Alternatively you could go for a walk along the 9km trails available at Tirimbina for a chance to see different habitats from old cacao plantations, secondary forest, wetlands and river banks to intriguing primary forest. Prices listed below are entrance only, you will need to add the cost of transport which will depende on how many of you want to participate in these activities.
Day 19 - Sarapiqui
Begin your second day in Sarapiqui searching for some of the rainforest's 215 colourful bird species on a guided birdwatching tour. In the afternoon, learn about one of humankind's tastiest obsessions during a chocolate tour in La Tirimbina Biological Reserve (2.5 hours). The production of cacao plays an important role in preserving this ecological site and supporting the local community.
Day 20 - La Fortuna
Drive to La Fortuna by private vehicle (approximately 3 hours). Huddled in the shadow of the looming Arenal Volcano, the small town of La Fortuna is an ideal location from which to explore the surrounding region. The volcano's almost perfect cone, which soars 1,633 metres above sea level, has a crater 140 metres deep formed over an ancient caldera. In the evening you will visit hot springs in the area. Surrounded by lush foliage and naturally heated by the Arenal volcano, the springs are the perfect way to relax.
Day 21 - La Fortuna
Get a different perspective of the Arenal ecosystem on a walk around its hanging bridge system. Hidden among the trees, you'll be in a unique position to observe the wildlife below. With a free afternoon to enjoy, perhaps visit the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge.
Day 22 - Monteverde
Today take the scenic route to Monteverde (approximately 4 hours in total). Travel by shared minibus to Lake Arenal, which you'll then cross by boat. On a clear day you'll get fantastic views of the surrounding area. On the other side of the lake, re-board the minibus and continue to your destination. Monteverde was founded as an agricultural community in 1951 by a group of North American Quakers who cleared virgin forest to create pastures ideal for dairy farming. These environmentally aware settlers were way ahead of the game in being conscious of the danger that unrestricted settling and farming could cause to habitats. Consequently, they established a small privately-owned wildlife sanctuary which has since grown to become the internationally-renowned Monteverde Cloudforest Biological Preserve. These forests are similar to rainforests, but instead of relying on rain for essential moisture, receive water comes from semi-permanent cloud that covers the region. Lush and full of wildlife, this is truly a nature lover's paradise. More than 2,000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different types of mammals call Montverde home.
Day 23 - Monteverde
This morning you'll have the opportunity to join your leader on a guided walking tour through the Monteverde National Park. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the world's most elusive birds. The afternoon is free for you to enjoy at leisure. Sit back with your favorite book or take on some of the optional activities in the area. Perhaps walk through the canopy on suspension bridges or watch butterflies at play in the specially created butterfly garden. The local guides are very knowledgeable about the area and passionate about conservation. There are also several cooperatives worth visiting in the local communities.
Day 24 - Monteverde
In the morning, visit the Ramirez family and their small coffee farm, which produces the coffee brand locally known as Cafe San Luis. Learn from this charismatic family the traditional coffee-making process still employed today. After an afternoon set aside for relaxation, embark on a evening hike in search of some of the rainforest's nocturnal inhabitants. Some of the wildlife you might see includes porcupines, toucans, owls, agoutis, coatimundis, snakes, stick insects, tarantulas and katydids. Animal sightings can of course never be guaranteed, but this time of day offers a good chance to both spot diurnal animals returning from the day's hunting and nocturnal animals setting out to start it.
Day 25 - Manuel Antonio National Park
From Monteverde it is a four to five hour drive to Manuel Antonio National Park. Situated on the Pacific Coast, the area of mangrove swamps and beaches now known as the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio was first documented by Spanish Explorer Ponce de Leon in 1519 during his (unsuccessful) search for the Fountain of Youth. Here, long, white beaches extending around the Punta Catedral headland are backed by evergreen forests that grow up right up to the high tide mark. The park, which is made up of 12 small islands and countless lagoons and mangrove swamps, is home to 109 kinds of mammal and 184 species of bird, also boasts turquoise seas perfect for swimming, kayaking, sailing or fishing in. The afternoon is at your leisure. Perhaps relax at the beach and get ready for tomorrow's exploration of the National Park.
Day 26 - Manuel Antonio National Park
Led by a local guide whose family helped establish the park, head out on a hike through Manuel Antonio in search of the resident wildlife. Monkeys, armadillos, sloths and hundreds of birds are some of the species you might be lucky enough to spot.
Day 27 - Manuel Antonio National Park
Take advantage of a late morning rise and sleep-in or wake early and listen to the jungle stirring to a new day. In the afternoon, haul anchor, hoist the sails and set off on a memorable sunset sail across the park's turquoise waters.
Day 28 - San Jose
Travel back to San Jose (approximately 4 hours). Arrive back in time for some last-minute souvenir shopping at the city's vibrant markets. In the evening you might like to head out for a final group dinner and sampling of the city's night scene.
Day 29 - San Jose
Your trip comes to an end after breakfast today. There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type

Accommodation

Feature stay (4 nights),Comfortable Hotel (22 nights),Lodge (2 nights)

Transport

Private vehicle,Boat,Plane,Shuttle bus

Map